There was once a show called Veronica Mars, starring Kristen Bell as a teenage private eye. It was the only thing to air on UPN that anyone ever liked. It ran for three years before being cancelled. I never watched it, but I’ve heard a lot of good things about it.
The show had a small but dedicated fanbase, and as small but dedicated fanbases are wont to do when the object of their love ends, they campaigned for a revival. In the six years since the series ended, creator Rob Thomas has made numerous attempts to fulfill that desire. And now it seems to have come to a fruition.
Yesterday, Thomas unveiled his Kickstarter campaign for a Veronica Mars movie. Also yesterday, that campaign reached it’s goal of raising $2 million, instantly making it the biggest, most successful movie project the site has run to date.
Now, if you know anything at all about moviemaking, you might be wondering what can actually be accomplished with $2 million, which should be more than enough to make a feature, but which, these days, roughly covers the costs of the average studio film’s hair gel budget (that’s an exaggeration, but not too much of one). Not to mention the fact that Kickstarter will be taking a 8-10% cut of the final total. Plus there’s taxes and stuff. WB will cover distribution costs (possibly marketing as well), and the project still has 29 days to go, during which it will presumably collect millions more, but still.
But the thing is that this isn’t actually funding the Veronica Mars movie at all. Well, it is, since all proceeds go directly to the budget. But that isn’t the main purpose of the campaign.
Of course, Warner Bros. still owns Veronica Mars and we would need their blessing and cooperation to pull this off. Kristen and I met with the Warner Bros. brass, and they agreed to allow us to take this shot. They were extremely cool about it, as a matter of fact. Their reaction was, if you can show there’s enough fan interest to warrant a movie, we’re on board.
So, this is essentially an extreme proof-of-concept stunt. Only one that’s actually taking money from people. That feels… off to me. I’m already perturbed by the level of fan control over studios – now it’s filtered down to lower budget stuff in addition to the blockbusters? Now we’re using Kickstarter for mainstream studio projects, instead of people who would otherwise not have a prayer of getting their ideas funded?
There’s a joke near the beginning on the video on the campaign page (one of the few I understood, since most of the rest were in-jokes about the show) with one guy wondering why Kristen Bell doesn’t just fund the movie herself if she wants it made so badly. I doubt she or anyone else who wants this movie made is actually capable of just dropping that kind of dough, but if Joss Whedon was able to get $40 million for Serenity, based off a show that ran for half a season, would it really be so hard for these guys to put together something much less cost-intensive for a movie sequel to a show that ran three?
Also, what if this doesn’t work out (a possibility the KS page semi-acknowledges)? Once a campaign is funded, Kickstarter is under no obligation to refund anyone’s money. Almost 45,000 people and counting made this possible, but no one involved in the production has to answer to them at all. When a few hundred people are funding some rinky-dink indie flick for a total of a few thousand dollars or so, that’s probably acceptable. For a studio feature? It just smacks of fan exploitation.
I’m not going to begrudge this project or anyone who backed it. You got your movie, Veronica Mars fans (maybe)! I’m just uneasy with the precedent that this sets.
P.S. In case you care and/or remember this, yes, I recant my support of the Goon Kickstarter.